A US-based commercial surrogacy agency, Surrogacy Cambodia, has begun marketing to US citizens “personalised services” – including surrogacy and gender selection – to be carried out at a high-end IVF clinic in the Kingdom.
And while local IVF clinics continue to deny offering surrogacy services – which remain in a legal grey area – the links between the proliferating online surrogacy agencies and the brick-and- mortar clinics are becoming increasingly clear.
“Surrogacy Cambodia’s customized packages in in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), and matching services for surrogate mothers, egg donors and private sperm donors, are designed to give couples a wider scope of options in having children,” the Orange County, California, firm said in a press release on Saturday.
On its website, the agency markets gender selection and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) services to heterosexual couples as well as surrogacy services to gay couples and IVF to lesbians.
The website also features photos of egg donors, more than 50 available surrogate mothers and images of a villa where the surrogate mothers stay during their pregnancy.
Surrogacy Cambodia did not respond to requests for additional information yesterday.
However, on its website, it claims to have successfully impregnated 60 surrogate mothers in Cambodia between November 2015 and April this year.
The Cambodian surrogacy industry – which has rapidly expanded after foreign surrogacy was banned or restricted in India, Thailand and Nepal last year – has remained shrouded in secrecy amid fears that publicity could force the government to ban the practice.
Read more: As surrogacy industry expands, legal and ethical issues mulled
The Ministry of Interior said in 2014 that commercial surrogacy was illegal, however, the practice has remained in a legal grey area as the government develops specific IVF and surrogacy laws.
Health Minister Mam Bunheng yesterday asked for a formal letter to be submitted before answering questions on the issue. He said he had not received a letter the Post submitted to the Ministry of Health previously.
More than a dozen agencies now have websites advertising surrogacy services in Cambodia, with each pregnancy costing upwards of $30,000; however, none approached by the Post have been willing to speak openly about their businesses.
Likewise, none of the four domestic fertility clinics able to provide the procedures necessary will openly admit to providing IVF for surrogacy.
However, on the Surrogacy Cambodia Facebook page it claims to have an “exclusive joint partnership with First Fertily [sic] Phnom Penh (FFPP) Clinic in Phnom Penh”, a high-end Hong Kong-owned clinic based in the Vattanac Tower.
On its website, the agency claims to make use of the services of two of First Fertility’s specialists Dr Sovannaroth Ty and Dr Du Xiaoping. The site also features photos of the clinic.
When asked if First Fertility had a commercial relationship with Surrogacy Cambodia, a receptionist for First Fertility, who refused to give her name, yesterday said the clinic only had a partner clinic in Thailand and focused on IVF.
“However, there is no surrogacy service and we don’t offer surrogacy service,” she said. “In case a customer chooses to do surrogacy, maybe we can provide that service,” she added, before hanging up.
When asked via email whether any US citizens had applied for citizenship for surrogate children born in Cambodia, spokesman Courtney Woods said the US Embassy did not release that kind of information.
Woods said the State Department offered information for US citizens considering assisted reproductive technology at its website but had no specific information for Cambodia.